A Quick Guide to the Vietnam War

Vietnam War / Tet Offensive, American soldiers wait at Hamo Village 1968
Vietnam War, Tet Offensive: American soldiers in defensive position (1968). Department of Defense

The Vietnam War began on November 1, 1955, and ended April 30, 1975. It lasted for 19 and 1/2 years. Although the bulk of the fighting took place in Vietnam, the war also spilled over into neighboring Laos and Cambodia in the early 1970s.

Communist North Vietnamese forces, led by Ho Chi Minh, were allied with the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, the People's Republic of China, and the Soviet Union. They faced an anti-communist coalition made up of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the United States, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Laos.

Troops Deployed and Outcomes

North Vietnam and its allies deployed approximately 500,000 troops South Vietnam and its allies deployed 1,830,000 (peak in 1968).

The North Vietnamese army and their Viet Cong allies won the war. The United States and other foreign nations withdrew their troops by March 1973. The South Vietnamese capital of Saigon fell to the communist forces on April 30, 1975.

Estimated Total Deaths:

South Vietnam - approximately 300,000 soldiers dead, up to 3,000,000 civilians

North Vietnam + Viet Cong - approximately 1,100,000 soldiers dead, up to 2,000,000 civilians

Cambodia - 200,000 or more civilians dead

United States - 58,220 dead

Laos - approximately 30,000 dead

South Korea - 5,099 dead

People's Republic of China - 1,446 dead

Thailand - 1,351 dead

Australia - 521 dead

New Zealand - 37 dead

Soviet Union - 16 dead.

Major Events and Turning Points:

Gulf of Tonkin Incident, August 2 and 4, 1964.

My Lai Massacre, March 16, 1968.

Tet Offensive, January 30, 1968.

Large Anti-war Protests Begin in US, October 15, 1969.

Kent State Shootings, May 4, 1970.

Fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975.